If you’re sensing a change in the winds, it might be because Chinese New Year was this past Monday, February 8th, and the beginning of the year of the Monkey! Now is the time to exchange old habits, fears, and doubts for curiosity, cleverness, and play. Its a time to open yourself up to new possibility and find joy in everything you do. A perfect time to practice Monkey Pose or Hanumanasana on the mat!
Finding acceptance in the yoga practice is usually easier said than done. So many times have I approached a new posture feeling intimidate and scared. Advanced postures can be daunting and cause me to feel full of doubt. It is important to accept yourself where you are when beginning your Monkey Pose and find the fun in learning a new posture! Practice Aparigraha—non attachment to a result. Let go of what the pose “should” look like–just be happy where you are.
Here are a few simple poses to work through on your way to Hanumanasana. Grab some blocks or a stack of books for extra support. Remember, wherever you are is the perfect place to be. Don’t forget to breathe!
1. Anjaneyasana (Kneeling Crescent or Low Lunge)
Kneeling crescent is amazing to open the hip flexors, psoas, and help tone the quads and core. Be curious and crawl your toes toward to front of your mat for an extra stretch. Press both of your hip bones square to the front of the room and sink your pelvis down towards the floor. Be sure to keep your front knee stacked over your ankle to support your joints. With your arms reaching to the sky, take 3 to 5 breaths here.
2. Ardha Hanumanasana (Half Splits)
From Kneeling Crescent, rock your hips back to stack over your back knee. Fleck your front foot towards your face to engage and stretch through the calf muscle and hamstring. Gently rotate your hips bones to point forward. With your hands on blocks, books, or on the floor, find a small halfway lift in your upper body by lengthening the spine and squeezing your shoulder blades toward one another. As your exhale, fold forward keeping your flat spine for as long as you can before rounding over. Practice acceptance here. With each breath find length and depth and know that your body is resilient and learning. Breathe here for 3 to 5 breaths.
3. Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I)
From Downward Dog, step your right foot between your hands. As you inhale, bring your torso away from your thigh and reach your arms to the ceiling. Your back heal plants firmly into the mat, with your toes pointing out at a 45 degree angle. Bend your front knee to stack over your ankle and ground down into your feet. Gently press your left hip bone forward and pull your right hip crease back to square your pelvis forward. Relax your shoulders from your ears. Feel the power of this grounding stance. Keep your core engaged. Stay here for 3 to 5 breaths.
4. Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose)
From Warrior I, straighten your front leg. Dive your torso forward and reach for either side of your foot (you can use blocks or a stack of books here for support). Actively press your back heal into the mat. Squeeze your inner thighs toward one another. Imagine the inseam of your back leg rotating up to the ceiling. Plug your right hip back into its socket. With each breath, reach energy from the crown of your head and lengthen the spine. With each exhale fold deeper. Stay for 3 to 5 breaths.
5. Hanumanasana (Monkey Pose)
First, take a breath. Continue to breathe as you move into the posture and remind yourself to release attachment to your expectations. The benefits of Monkey Pose is to stretch and strengthen. No matter where you are in your expression of this posture, these benefits will come.
Begin from Kneeling Crescent and move into Half Splits. Alternate between these two postures until your hamstrings, hip flexors and quadriceps feel open. From your half splits, press your palms into the floor on either side of you (or on a pair of blocks/stack of books). Press your weight into your hands and gently start to slide your front heal forward and your back heal behind you. As you lower your hips, you’ll begin to feel the hamstrings and hip flexors stretch. Take this slow and continue to breath. Be gentle with your body and pause at your preferred level of intensity. If you hips are inching closer to floor—but are not quite there yet—take a block and place it underneath your glute muscle for support. From here you can stay and breathe or practice Tadasana with the arms.
Hanumanasana is a challenging posture, both for the body and the mind. Acceptance might be the most importance aspect when practicing Monkey Pose, for we can only begin to grow once we accept and love where we are.
Be curious. Release doubt. Find acceptance.
I’d love to know if these poses help you find acceptance–share below! 🙂
Also by Alyssa: 5 Ways to Stay Grateful
Santosha: How to Accept the Turbulence of Life
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Photos: Alyssa Cudiamat